This last week, my family has been on a baseball vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C. My oldest son is playing in a tournament there. It has been fun and exciting, but between the excitement, I noticed something very interesting.
As I was waiting for a second game to start, I wandered over to the fence along one of the retention ponds and leaned against it. Just on the other side was a lone mallard drake. He was wobbling along on the pond’s shore poking and prodding with his beak into the soft grass.
Eventually he noticed me and slowly, but cautiously, made his way back into the water. In an instant this mallard went from an awkward, wobbling, duck-out-of-water stereotype to a graceful and natural part of the environment it lives in.
The pond water was crystal clear and I was able to watch closely how this mallard’s feet propelled him along. We all know that on the backstroke the duck’s webbed feet splay wide open and push against the water and propel him forward and a nice rate.
It was the forward stroke that really impressed me, though. After each leg had finished pushing as far back as it could go, that wide, webbed, foot folded up on itself and moved back into the ready position with hardly any resistance.
It would be much like pulling a canoe paddle toward you, using the wide blade to pull water with maximum force and then turning the paddle, keeping it in the water, and slicing it forward to get ready to pull back again.
These two little orange feet on this duck were moving quickly, yet they were smooth, graceful and perfectly suited for the job. It was very enjoyable to take a minute out of the busy tournament day and witness this quiet moment.
On the way back to the parking lot, my younger son paraded right up to me and held up a water bottle with questionable contents. He smiled and said, “Look!” In this bottle, he had created a microhabitat that quite accurately resembled these retention ponds that were all over the complex.
Then something caught my eye. In the top third of this bottle, swimming around, were tadpoles. Each of them were in different stages of their development. Some had just tails and small front legs, while others had developed four legs and only had a nub of a tail left. They were so tiny and black as tar.
Even within that little bottle they were able to completely vanish from my sight by sitting still under a piece of a leaf or within the crevice of a couple of rocks. There black coloration allowed them to melt into the shadows and stay hidden. It was only once they moved that they could be picked out and seen.
Here, twice in one day, at a baseball tournament, I was reminded how incredible the world is that we live in. Myrtle Beach is an incredible example of mankind coming into an ecosystem that is favorable and desirable by man and commercializing it to the point where you would think the natural world can’t exist. Yet it does.
This duck and these tadpoles were living in manmade retention ponds among a baseball complex that features all artificial turf fields. Amazing.
Their adaptions to the natural world and their ability to exist involve working with nature not against it. That is so different than what we as humans try to do. We try to alter nature to best suit our purposes. It was a real moment of inspiration and awe.
Sometimes I feel like I am the only person, besides children, that notice these things when we are at a place like this. It is so easy to caught in the excitement of the games being played, the concession stands and the rush to go hang out at the beach. There is more, though. Right beneath our noses some perfectly created creatures are doing their thing while we do ours.